Some Things Familiar, Some Things Not In WVU Alumni Basketball Game
As the former Mountaineer basketball players ran up and down the court Saturday night in the WVU Alumni Game at Fairmont State’s Joe Retton Arena, so many familiar moments came flashing back:
- Jarrod West yelling out, “That’s it ‘Young Buck’,” every time his old teammate Marcus Goree hit a shot.
- Nate Adrian’s long locks flowing as he sprinted on a fast break.
- John Flowers flushing a dunk and later dancing to “Teach me how to Dougie” between quarters.
- Teyvon Myers’ ever-present smile.
- Juwan Staten slashing to the basket almost at will.
- Herbie Brooks throwing an inside lob to his one-time running make Darryl Prue.
- Kevin Jones connecting on a step back along the baseline.
- Jaysean Paige and Tarik Phillip matching shot for shot, before Paige eventually finished with a flurry, scoring a game-high 53 points, while Phillip had 25.
So much of what happen in the alumni game West Virginia fans had seen before. It was fun to relive the past. OK, there wasn’t much defense, as the Blue team, which featured Phillip, Jones, Adrian, Brooks, Da’Sean Butler and others, outscored Paige, Staten, Goree, Myer, Macon and their crew on the White team, 127-113.
The lack of defense may have driven WVU’s current head coach Bob Huggins nuts, but most of the approximately 2,000 fans in attendance were treated by the endless array of three-pointers and alley-oop dunks.
“We had a great time,” said Flowers, who has organized the alumni game the past four years. “The players enjoyed it, and the fans enjoyed it, too. We had a good crowd, and I think everyone was entertained.”
Flowers, who had 11 points in the game, was one of 10 former Mountaineers participating in Saturday’s game who is still playing professionally. Flowers’ last season at WVU was 2011, and he’s been playing pro ball overseas ever since. He spent this past year in France.
Staten and Jones also played professionally in France this past season, but both enjoy coming back and playing in the alumni game in front of Mountaineer fans.
“This was a lot of fun,” noted Staten, who had 12 points and 11 assists. “It’s funny, but when you are out there with someone who was your teammate, you may not have played with them for a couple years, but as soon as you’re on the court together again, that old familiarity comes right back.”
Jones had 19 points. He makes his offseason home in Morgantown, as do Butler, Flowers, Paige, Phillip, Truck Bryant and several others.
“I’m fortunate in that I still am in contact with a lot of these guys,” explained Jones, whose four-year career with the Mountaineers ended in 2012 but not until he scored 1,822 points and grabbed 1,048 rebounds. “We all work out together in the summer, and most of us live near each other in the same neighborhood. That’s nice, but it’s also fun to get out here in a game setting and go at it. I really enjoy it.”
Besides Paige, Staten and Flowers, the White team also got 21 points from Elijah Macon. Seven different players on the Blue team finished in double figures. On top of the 25 from Phillip and 19 from Jones, Adrian scored 19, Rob Summers had 15, Brooks netted 11 and Butler wound up with 10. The player most familiar with the Joe Retton Arena, current Fairmont State men’s coach and former Mountaineer point guard Joe Mazzula (2007-11), pleased his home crowd by pumping in 16 points.
In the end, so much was familiar: Mazzula’s running hook in the lane, Macon’s thunderous dunks, Brent Solheim’s soft touch, Goree having a physique the envy of everyone else on the court.
But there was also plenty to remind you it is indeed a different era.
- Da’Sean’s son, Tralyn, who just turned five, was running around all decked out in his dad’s Ratiopharm Ulm jersey, or at least a miniature version of it.
- Brandon Watkins participated in his first alumni game, having spent this past year playing professionally in Europe. Brandon had a bunch of his family watching Saturday, including his grandfather, Ernest Baker, who was celebrating his 89th birthday. Ernest, who along with his wife Mary still live in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., first watched his son, Warren Baker, play for the Mountaineers 46 years ago. Now he’s seen his grandson complete his WVU career as well.
- Jarrod West is forever remembered in West Virginia lore for hitting the three-pointer to beat Cincinnati in the 1998 NCAA Tournament. West’s son, Jarrod West Jr., was in the crowd watching his dad play in the alumni game. Jarrod Jr. is heading into his sophomore season at Marshall, where he is the Herd’s starting point guard.
- Herbie Brooks and Darryl Prue were senior co-captains of the WVU’s 1989 NCAA Tournament team. On Saturday, they tried a couple their patented pick-and-role lobs, with Brooks lofting a pass inside to Prue. Twenty-nine years ago, Prue would have hauled in the teardrop and spiked it through the rim. Now as he cruises past 50 years old, Prue just chuckled as Brooks’ intended assist sailed over his head. The vertical just isn’t there any more for Prue. He laughed about the plays afterward. “Hey, at least I was the oldest guy out there tonight. Herbie’s still older,” … by a year. With that, Brooks and Prue hugged and walked off the court arm in arm.